Metro, Los Angeles
The Los Angeles subway system is clean, efficient, and a great bargain. For $1.35 you can go anywhere on the route (one-way; you can use 90-cent tokens as well), and for twice that you can pretty much ride around all day. Tickets are on the honor system. I've been checked pretty often, usually around the big tourist spots (Hollywood, etc.). If you're caught without a fare you usually get a warning but the fine is over $200.
If you're staying in Downtown LA or Hollywood, the subway is particularly easy to use. It starts at North Hollywood, home of an arts-and-theatre community, then stops at Universal Studios, Hollywood & Highland (near Chinese theatre), Hollywood & Vine (Pantages theatre), several more stops, then 7th & Metro (heart of Downtown's financial district), Pershing Square (near Grand Central Market, Biltmore, & more), Civic Center (for the Music Center & new Cathedral), and finally Union Station (a monument unto itself. and close to Chinatown, Olvera Street).
At Union Station you can transfer to the Gold Line which goes to Pasadena. At 7th & Metro, you can transfer to the Blue Line which goes to Long Beach and also meets the Green Line, which goes to LAX.
Staying downtown, you're really at the centerpoint of all public transit in LA. It's about the only place you could stay without a car.
One final note: docent tours of the art at each station are offered. Check www.mta.net/metroart for details. Each station was commissioned by a different artist, and they are all treats.
Los Angeles is a large city and the metro system is too small to reach easily all locations. It is better developed in the north-south direction than east-west. Nevertheless it is a good means of transportation integrated by a decent bus system that can take you slowly almost everywhere. Most famous spots can be reached by metro in a relatively short time such as Hollywood, Universal Studios, Downtown, El Pueblo, Chinatown. Little harder but still ok to reach Ghetty Center and Griffith Observatory or the coast at Venice-Santa Monica. If you want to visit other places it is better to rent a car that will allow you also to move freely at night. In any case it might be an interesting experience to spend at least one day moving around LA using the metro and bus system. You can seat, relax, watch all the sorroundings and explore all the neighboorhoods of LA.
If you move by public transport I strongly suggest you to use the "Twelve minute" map available on-line at the MTA site (see link below) or find printed verions in almost every hotel. It's a quick map with all transportation lines and stops where you should wait less than 12 minutes for your bus.
one will see a real part of Los Angeles, that part which is not the fake, idealized part of the city that includes glamorous Hollywood areas. Instead, what one sees outside the Metro side windows is a rough reality of L.A.
The Blue Line is a great connection to travel from L.A. to Long Beach without the car. It must be said that it is not the prettiest. This is the most crowded and, therefore, noisiest ride of all of the Metro rail lines. Also, it is the least scenic line but the convenience of it makes up for the garish views of graffiti, unkept neighborhoods and polluted riverwater.
Metro Blue begins in L.A. at 7th and Metro (or 7th /Figueroa intersection) and ends at the Long Beach Transit Mall. During the trip, areas of South L.A., Compton and Willowbrook are reached which are almost strictly for local interest. A major Blue Line destination for certain tourists is at Artesia, where the Commerence Casino is just steps away.
One will see many garish views off the Blue Line capturing harsh reality in the southern part of the city. It is a good thing to see the full picture of a destination.
*Note: The linked Blue Line Map is a little deceiving. The straight line leading up to 7th/Metro doesn't reflect how the light rail cab actually travels. The cab makes a turn after the Washington stop and another after Grand , heading towards Pico.
Metro Red and Purple lines provide swift underground trips to major, entertaining stops in downtown. Furthermore, the Red line can take passengers to several attractions destinations in the county- such as Hollywoods, West, North and the original "Ho" area. Arrive at Union Station to start your underground rail journey from these lines.
Make sure that when leaving from the Union St, stop (or from major stops like Civic Center, Pershing Square, 7th/Metro stops and Westlake/MacArthur Park), that you look to see if the departing train will make a trip to Wilshire/ Western (this is the PURPLE LINE SIGNPOST!) or if it goes to North Hollywood (RED LINE SIGNPOST). Know your RED from your PURPLE! So many L.A. underground newbies get confused with this! Of course, I did in the beginning of all this Metro madness!
Check out the map on the website for all Metro Lines!
Photo of artwork by Robert Gil de Montes (1992)
Los Angeles has two major sides : east and west. There is a tendency for travelers to go west, which is justifiably more fun and glamorous. However, highlights of the east do get somewhat ignored out of ignorance, fear or both.
So, here, I recommend that travelers go east by way of Metro Gold Line to discover Chinatown and the Southeast Museum (dedicated to indigneous indians) which are both just a few steps away from Gold Line stops. The Chinatown stop is pictured here. From the train, historic Lake Arroyo (Seco) is visible.
People(including VTers) love to regularly bash Los Angeles for having "no public transit". Or, they maintain public transit is only used by the old, infirm, poor, homeless and crazy.
A. Not true
B. Most of the naysayers have never even been on the subway
The sheer land size of Los Angeles makes it difficult to transverse by public transit or to even put transit in place. But, if you leave out the Westside and beaches, the city is fairly well-served. Overall, the system is more dependable and extensive than I've seen in Seattle, San Diego, Philadelphia...and, dare I say it, Chicago.
LA has the second largest bus fleet in America, and the second busiest light rail(after Boston's green line). By contrast, the Red Line subway, with it's limited range, ranks 9th.
But, for many visitors, the Red Line is a godsend. Top tourist destinations such as Universal City, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grauman's Chinese, Downtown LA, and Pasadena are all connected via the Red Line and connecting light rail.
Sure, you're going to want to rent a car for the beaches and Malibu, Disneyland....maybe even for Beverly Hills. But don't believe the naysayers. Los Angeles is not the car crazy city it used to be. Residents are fed up with long traffic delays and insufferable commutes. I own a car, but use the Red Line weekly for all trips to Downtown shows, clubs, Disney Hall, Koreatown, Pasadena, Chinatown and Olvera Street. 40% of the residents of my neighborhood don't even own cars.
Los Angeles public transit still lacks for a city of its size, but it's getting there. No pun intended.
Red Line: Every 10 minutes during peak hours. Every 20 minutes off peak and weekends. Runs from 4:AM until 12:AM roughly, and until 3AM Fridays and Saturdays.
....And along came the Orange Line in the (San Fernando) Valley of Los Angeles- a godsend mode of getting around in the beloved/hated region. Although mainly of local interest, the Orange Line can be convenient for one visiting the L.A. area.
There is a dedicated lane for the gray-colored Orange Line, cutting east-west into the Valley. At first, the line ran into some problems- literally, a few automobiles! In the first several weeks after it premiered in 2005, there were some vehicular crashes into the bus liner. At different street intersections, there has been some confusion for motorists about crossing and turning lanes. Since then, there has been less incidents but on occasion there are some issues. Street signals alerting an on-coming Orange bus have been added and enhanced to cut down on accidents. However, I think the bigger perplexing thing about the Orange line is the color scheme of gray and yellow for the actual bus liner and bus stops for the ORANGE Line!!
Perhaps serving as the best stops on the Orange for tourist purposes are North Hollywood(NoHo-see my pages dedicated to this part of L.A.) and Balboa. For NoHo, one is just walking distance to small theaters for the arts, eclectic shopping and dining experience. As for Balboa, the stop is about 20 min walking distance to the main part of Balboa Park, which is great for sports/ recreation including paddle boat and carriage biking.
Once stepping on the Orange, just grab a seat as one would on the rail lines. Travelers do not show a pass to the driver but it is expect to have a pass in possession. Ticket booths are at each stop.
A very nice, small yet critical thing about the Orange is that at every stop, there is an electric sign that constantly gives the estimate time for the next bus liner to arrive.
Don't pay attention to those who condemn Los Angeles's transit system. They probably never rode on a Los Angeles subway or light rail train. Here's my experiences as a regular user of the Los Angeles mass transit system. First of all I, like most drivers in Los Angeles got tired of driving in congested traffic anytime of the day and night. It got so bad that I decided to try the Metro Rail system. After the first time riding the subway from Hollywood to the Los Angeles City Center I became hooked and now I use the trains to get to places in Los Angeles I used to drive to. I even went to places I never been to like Universal City, Downtown Long Beach and Old Town Pasadena. I admit though that the trains don't go everywhere however the Los Angeles MTA is working on that problem building and expanding rail lines but until then it is still better to ride Metro trains and buses than driving.
A lot of people say avoid public transportation in Los Angeles, which should not be necessarily true. Traffic and parking hassles tire even local Angelinos pretty quickly. For a visitor, it can only be much worse. The Metrorail system allows direct access to Universal Studios, Grauman's Chinese theater and Hollywood Blvd., Downtown Los Angeles including Olvera Street, Chinatown, and Disney Hall, LAX (with a shuttle) and other areas like Downtown Long Beach and Pasadena.
If one has time, it makes a lot of sense because of the size of the city to stay near a Metro stop in Downtown, Hollywood, Wilshire District, or other area and use the system for a few days and then maybe head to a different hotel in Santa Monica or elsewhere on the Westside and then rent a car for the areas that are not Metrorail adjacent (which would mean the beach areas, Beverly Hills, Melrose, and other areas). This way you save a lot of time and money and don't spend your days fuming in traffic (if you stay the entire time in Santa Monica, you'll be caught in traffic going just about anywhere outside of Santa Monica).
The trains and stations are new and modern and compare favorably with just about anywhere in the world, even if the growing system is still too small for the city. Busses aren't too bad for short trips as long as you don't have to transfer (good for going down Wilshire for instance). A day pass is only $3 and allows for trips all day all over LA County, which in my opinion is one of the best values in all of the United States.
For anyone interested in seeing some of urban and poor LA, head down the Blue Line to Long Beach, which was rebuilt on a line that was previously used in LA's original transit system. It is perfectly safe on the train, despite the rough neighborhoods that it goes through. It goes within a couple of blocks of the Watts Towers.
For $5 (day pass), you can go to several exciting destinations around LA. Single journey costs $1.25.
There are themes per station, so you expect the Chinatown station to have those dragons and Hollywood Station to have film reels and camera. Take the Metro Red line to the following destinations:
Universal City - Universal Studios
Hollywood Highland - to see the Hollywood Sign, Kodak Theater, Mann's Chinese Theater, Walk of Fame
Hollywood Vine - L. Hubbard Life Exhibition, Walk of Fame
Union Station - Amtrak central station, El Pueblo (Mexican community with souvenir shops, church)
Everybody say that there is no way to go around LA without a car.
The Metro system and the bus system are good and not very expensive. The only big problem is that it is difficult to have the information about lines itinerary and timetable, but buses run often and covers large areas of LA.
The information about metro and buses and their itinerary can be obteined in www.mta.net, or at the posters in every metro station.
The metro/bus fare is $1.35 per ride plus if needed a $0.25 transfer (for changing bus/train).
The Metro is LA's subway system. It's limited but great to use if you're not planning on seeing a lot.
Here's a link to the metro system map:
And here's the metro site homepage:
I have only taken the LA metro once & it was a nice ride from N. Hollywood to Hollywood Blvd. It's cheap & pretty safe. Too bad it doesn't go more places.
The Gold Line Light Rail connects Downtown Los Angeles to Pasadena. Both places are worth visiting, and the train is a convenient way to get to them.
The line follows a pastoral route through mountains, over freeways, and even right through little neighborhoods.
Stop off in South Pasadena for a visit to a sweet little town.
In July 2003, a website was launched as a public service by several Los Angeles government agencies promoting the use of the Los Angeles Metro fixed rail and rapid bus lines to get out and experience Los Angeles. The site known as ExperienceLA.com promotes the use of the Red Line, Blue Line, Gold Line and Green Line along with the Rapid Bus Lines on Wilshire Blvd and Ventura Blvd to get around Los Angeles. The website includes neighborhood tours along these lines for Hollywood, NoHo, Thais Town, Original Farmers Market. In addition, the site talks about getting to and from LAX using this system. A trip on the Gold Line from Union Station to Pasadena has much to offer. It is possible to see Los Angeles without a car.
For your Los Angeles Metro trip, you should get a TAP card for your bus and rail travel. OK, I know, yet another card to put in the wallet! Metro has decided that paper passes are just way too evil and it wants you to go green with the tap. If you have an old Metro paper stub, it'll be a collector's item!
Get a TAP card for $1 at a Metro rail stop station or in advance of arriving in L.A. at taptogo.net. TAP is $2 at pass sales locations, like at Metro customer centers (one in Patasouras Plaza (open M-F) on the low level--expect a considerable wait as I often see many people there waiting on service) or at the pass center along Wilshire Blvd (at La Brea), along with other locations.
For using TAP at a rail station machine:
Add money after inserting into the machine. The typical increment starts at $7 for a regular single all-day pass. Also, you can pay for one week/7 day pass (reg $25) or one month/30-Day pass (reg$ 100). There are other fares for transfer options. (Fares subject to change , i.e.- go higher)
Using TAP on the bus:
Feed TAP face-forward into card slot. The bus driver can read the balance on the card. If you owe any amount, add dollars and coins into money slot.
The card is tracked when a passenger enters a bus or rail entrance and taps a device that senses the card. The effectiveness of TAP is debatable as far as the green issue is concerned.
TAP card is good for use on not only Metro but for other greater L.A. county transport lines. Check website for more info.